04/10/12 Local Government
EAST LAKE — After years of stormwater rising faster than solutions, Tarpon Woods residents can finally expect some relief from flooding.
An upcoming project won't eliminate all standing water after a rainstorm, but officials say it'll reduce the number of incidents where pools of water block access to homes.
The county will complete a new drainage system to speed the flow of water out of the neighborhood, which is in northeast Pinellas, east of Lake Tarpon. That project is budgeted for 2012-13 and will result in neighborhood streets also being repaved....
Former Pinellas County Sheriff Everett Rice's voice comes across like a country friend, slow and easy.
His re-emergence in county politics has been just the opposite.
Five years out of public life, Rice has thundered back by challenging Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, whom the governor appointed over Rice last year when Jim Coats retired.
With Coats' backing, Gualtieri lined up big-name endorsements to help him stand out in a six-candidate field. But fellow Republican Rice has outdone him with fundraising — $205,500 to $122,700 — by tapping longtime supporters to dot the county with signs and stage fundraisers....
03/22/12 Local Government
CLEARWATER — Top county officials have proposed moving all family law courts to mid Pinellas County to make justice more efficient.
But lawyers and leaders in Clearwater, like counterparts in St. Petersburg, predict it will deal an unfair blow to clients and to the county's two biggest downtowns.
"It's not simply a question of being inconvenienced. Family law cases are different," attorney Thomas Donnelly said....
Former lawmaker Janet Long said Democrats picked the wrong Janet when they sent a newsletter Wednesday afternoon that she is "all in" to run for Pinellas County Commission. The event they cite while extolling Long's virtues is apparently for School Board member Janet Clark the same day, Long said.
"I wouldn't do something like that at someone's house," Long said. As for the Democrats' insight into her decision?...
CLEARWATER — More than two years ago, Pinellas County commissioners accepted a task force's recommendations to curb the number of feral cats roaming the community.
The ideas sat. Not the cats.
It's tough to count, but county Animal Services estimates that up to 200,000 feral cats live in Pinellas. That's double the number of so-called unsociable, free-roaming felines cited in 2008-09. ...
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH — Someone took not only the keys to John Shelton's van, but to his heart.
Shelton, 69, woke up for Mass early Wednesday to find his 18-year-old green Dodge Caravan missing from his beachfront condo. The van had the backup power equipment for the pump in his chest that keeps his ill heart going.
Shelton, who said he is on a waiting list for a heart transplant, wears a power supply for the pump all the time in a black vest. If power fails without the backup, he will have to quickly find a wall power supply to keep it going — and ultimately, stay alive....
03/13/12 Local Government
Pinellas County commissioners imposed limits on how they can use county purchasing cards Tuesday, a result of Commissioner Norm Roche's using his card to hire a private crew to clear debris at a home and buy office furniture last year. After a Times report on his actions, fellow commissioners accused him of embarrassing and misleading them, and violating the county's charter. Now, board members will get to use the cards only for travel and training. Violators could lose the card and be forced to repay the spending. The vote was unanimous, and Roche never brought up his suggestion last month that a grand jury look into the case. He did persuade his colleagues to require that every member is informed every time an allegation about a commissioner's spending is made....
CLEARWATER — Pinellas County still has a $3 million bone to pick with BP over the gulf oil spill in 2010.
It's the amount the county calculates was lost, mostly in unpaid taxes and fees.
The spill never reached Pinellas beaches, but the county says its damages also include $1,300 in nixed park shelter rentals and $50,000 in cancelled golf at Airco Golf Course — links that the county shuttered as a long-running money loser last year....
EMILY's List, the Washington group that supports Democratic women candidates who favor abortion rights, announced its support of Democrat Jessica Ehrlich in her bid for Congress. She faces a primary fight against former Pinellas School Board member Nina Hayden. The ultimate target is U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young's long-held congressional seat.
“I am extremely honored to be placed “On the List” by EMILY’s List - one of the premier women’s organizations in our country,” Ehrlich said in a statement. “Our country and our communities are facing real challenges, but the radical Republicans in Washington are doing nothing to help our struggling economy or the middle class. Pinellas County deserves a fighter who will work to attract good jobs, support our small businesses, and protect our commitments to seniors, and that’s why I am running for Congress.” (news release on the jump)...
It's a picture of a police department stretched thin. Of too few officers to deal with disruptions and complaints. Of too little communication that has spawned a disconnect between officers and their bosses.
A recent audit of the Pinellas County School District questioned the effectiveness of its police force. It recommended the School Board review whether to even have the force of more than 30 sworn officers and civilians. If the board decides to keep it, the report said, then it needs to support it properly....
PINELLAS PARK — Former congressman Alan Grayson led off with a calm voice and a request for a prayer.
A change of heart by the liberal Democrat with a national reputation for caustic remarks? No chance.
"Dear Lord, thank God I'm a Democrat. And thank God I did not have to vote in the Republican presidential primary," he told Pinellas County Democrats on Saturday night.
"They're all a bunch of losers," he said of the GOP hopefuls....
03/10/12 Local Government
ST. PETERSBURG — The city's new mooring field, where boaters tie their vessels to anchored buoys in the Vinoy yacht basin, was supposed to help solve complaints over the scarcity of public docking space.
But some downtown residents, boaters and members of the St. Petersburg Yacht Club are complaining about an unintended consequence of the extra water parking: To avoid mooring field fees, boaters are now anchoring elsewhere — and in the way. ...
TALLAHASSEE — If you have to pay a fine, report for jury duty or have a foreclosure case pending, brace yourself.
Florida's 67 court clerks say the public will face longer lines, shorter hours and more delays after the Legislature's decision to slash clerks' budgets statewide by $31 million, or 7 percent.
The latest in a series of spending cuts also threatens to close offices and lengthen the time it takes clerks to process paperwork and collect fines, such as for unpaid child support. Statewide, 900 jobs are at risk, clerks said. In Tampa Bay, 94 jobs risk being cut to make up for more than $4.6 million in reductions....